From irate to great on Route 28 in Pittsburgh

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Route 28 commuters rediscovered their accelerator pedals on Monday, as a new inbound traffic pattern almost magically dissolved the morning traffic jams that had plagued their ride into Pittsburgh's North Side since mid-May.

On Friday, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation eliminated a split of the left and right lanes that occurred before the 31st Street Bridge, redirecting traffic so that both lanes now pass under the bridge.

The lane split had so befuddled motorists that traffic would back beyond the Highland Park Bridge most mornings, moving at top speeds of 10 to 20 mph.

On Monday, the first morning rush without the split, traffic roared into town at or above the posted speed limit, with no significant backups.

"Quite a difference," PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said. "Eliminating the split point ends a lot of motorist confusion, particularly for people who are new to the area. Having the lanes side by side going under the 31st Street Bridge is making traffic flow much more smoothly."

The changing traffic patterns are part of the $36.4 million fourth phase of Route 28 reconstruction, part of a project that is creating grade-separated interchanges at the 31st Street and 40th Street bridges that eliminate signals for through traffic.

Route 28 motorists who travel at night will face a new round of challenges this week, as PennDOT will close the inbound side to all traffic at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for installation of an overhead sign structure.

Inbound traffic will be detoured across the 40th Street Bridge. Outbound delays also are possible, as traffic in that direction will occasionally be stopped for up to 15 minutes. The road will reopen by 5 a.m. daily.

Outbound traffic has been restricted to a single lane for nearly three years. PennDOT confirmed last week that it tentatively plans to restore a second lane by the end of the year, well ahead of the original schedule.

Elsewhere in traffic, the outbound Liberty Tunnel reopened at 5 a.m. Monday after 17 days of closure for work on the southern portal facade. The inbound tunnel will close at 10 p.m. Wednesday and remain closed around the clock until the morning of Aug. 30 as that work continues.

Also this week, the first stirrings of another major project -- reconstruction of the Route 51-Route 88 intersection in Pittsburgh's Overbrook section -- will come Wednesday night, as crews start to erect construction signs and traffic control devices.

The key feature of the $19 million project will be a two-lane "jug handle" that northbound Route 51 traffic will use to reach Route 88 and Glenbury Street. That traffic will exit right and loop around the Rite Aid pharmacy to pass through the intersection.

Traffic restrictions during the project have not been announced.

neigh_city - Transportation - neigh_north

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.


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